Pond Vegetation: What Looks Like A Problem Is A Symptom Of The Problem
It’s been several weeks since your last fishing trip. You anxiously cast to favorite spots, but the much-anticipated outing ends with high frustration. Casts reel in more vegetation than fish.
You call the biologist to report, “I have a problem”. After hearing your description, he answers, “vegetation is not the problem, it’s a symptom of the problem“. On-site evaluation confirmed the theory. Excess vegetation had spread because it was getting three primary requirements to thrive–sunlight, nutrients, and certain temperatures. Water was abnormally clear. Sunlight was reaching the bottom to stimulate plant growth. The season was mid-summer. Water temperatures had reached levels plants achieve optimum growth. The problem was clear water and warm temperatures. Vegetation was merely the underlying symptom that alerted owners to the problem.
Solving the problem requires blocking one or more of three stimulants. If discovered early enough in the Spring, we could have fertilized the pond and established a plankton bloom in the upper portion of the water column near the surface. That would shade the bottom and rob plants of necessary sunlight to promote growth. Unfortunately, new sprouts were budding. Fertilizing now would provide nutrients and compound the dilemma. There’s no option for reducing water temperatures to levels that would inhibit activity. We must wait for plants to become dormant in Fall and Winter as temps dip through 50 to 40-degree range. If you’re confronting these symptoms, we can spray troubled areas to salvage fishing opportunities through Fall. More importantly, we’ll devise a preventative-maintenance plan to eliminate potential symptoms early next season before they grow into nuisances that disrupt pond enjoyment.
Here’s another symptom for a very common problem–algae or pond scum floating on the surface? Although the symptom is algae, the actual problem is high nutrient levels in the water. Algae is prominent during rainy cycles as increased nutrients flow into ponds. The source may be runoff from livestock pastures, fertilized hay fields, or lawns. It can require chemical treatment week after week. If you can’t limit nutrient in-flow, the best fix is a combination of bottom aeration, microbes, and tilapia. Constant circulation to the surface breaks-down organic matter and continually cleanses water. Fish have improved conditions top to bottom.
One more example of a problematic symptom involved water quality. A customer called to advise their once clear pond suddenly turned murky. Using above diagnostic methods, we started down a checklist that might create current symptoms? Have livestock been wading in the pond? Were catfish stocked recently, feeding on the bottom, and stirring-up sediment? There were no livestock in the area. Fish weren’t the culprit. Before applying gypsum or aluminum sulfate to clear it, let’s make sure something else didn’t spawn the symptom that led to poor clarity. We were reminded of a similar incident in East Texas. We asked the ranch manager if dirt work had been done in the area. He remembered upper zones of the watershed had been dozed to increase runoff. Hmmm! We conducted a sediment test. The sample did not clear. After further investigation, we found recently dozed areas unearthed clay zones. Heavy rain flushed clay sediment into the pond and remained suspended in the water. We seeded bare ground. When fully vegetated, we’ll apply gypsum or aluminum sulfate to clear it. If we had cleared the pond before identifying the real problem, treatment would have lasted only until the next rain and a new round of clay would put us back to square one.
Before you misappropriate funds treating a symptom, consider a consultation. Whether the issue is excess vegetation, murky water, or stunted fish, let’s accurately identify what created visible symptoms. Then, we can implement effective methods for long-term management of the base problem.